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Setting Boundaries is Not Burning Bridges

The key to successful relationships does not have to be confrontational or intimidating

By Rachael Dionisio 

Graphic By Alicia Chiang

When interacting with someone you are forced to spend time with but aren’t too fond of, the goal is to simply coexist. There are no expectations to enjoy each other’s company, but rather to tolerate each other. The need to reduce companionship to a less fluid level seems inevitable in many situations; however, I have found that the root cause is usually the preferred prevention of “burning bridges.”

We tend to avoid setting boundaries with those we are close with physically, such as a roommate, or emotionally, like a significant other, because we don’t want to dig ourselves into a hole. We don’t want to offend the other person by going against their standards for the relationship. The reality is that we need to be more okay with setting boundaries and vocalizing concerns with these people early on, or else the bridges will burn themselves. 

How often has someone you are close with built an annoying habit that affects you, overstepped your space, or pushed your emotional limits? We let these behaviors escalate because we are too afraid to stand our ground, resulting in the presumption that it is too late to say something now. Why are we so afraid to communicate?

Boundary-setting does not have to be confrontational or intimidating because we should feel comfortable expressing our limits with people we know well. Our companions should be receptive and adaptable to our boundaries, and we should feel comfort in knowing that. Setting a precedent early on of open communication with people we are close to diminishes the potential of future conflict. Establishing standards creates fluidity within companionship. 

The next time you notice the dishes have piled up for weeks and instinctively hold back from saying anything, remember that the fear of speaking up can still be avoided by simply speaking up. Each one of our personal boundaries is valid and deserves to be respected. We all have the power to hold our companionships to the standard of respecting our boundaries as needed. No, boundary setting is not burning bridges; it is necessary to maintain a healthy, fluid relationship. 


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